Byrne was involved in the erection of the Copperfield battery. He started work there on Saturday, December 31.
On January 5th he and the mechanical engineer, Frederick Maskell, were
shifting mortar blocks preparatory to their being placed in position and were preparing the second section. While moving the logs by means of levers, one of the levers appeared to strike the deceased. Maskell said he did not see it occur as he was on the other side of the logs watching the skids.
Deceased was buried by Peter Mooney. Witnesses present at the burial were J Ogle Moore and F Stephenson. His death was certified in writing by H Gregory, Acting Coroner, Menzies.
It was decided to hold an inquest and H Gregory, JP, with Constable Harris, left for Mt Ida for that purpose. Arrangements were made to exhume the body the following morning. Henry Gregory empanelled James Ogle Moore, leaseholder, Auguste Jules Luck, miner, and Arthur Vickers, carpenter, and obtained traps. The jury, with Holmes, who was alongside Byrne when the accident happened, proceeded to the cemetery, located about one and a half miles east of the township. As it was necessary under the statutes that the body should be viewed by the coroner and the jury, the body had to be exhumed. As Byrne had died some days earlier, the task was a repulsive one. Disinfectants were freely used but were of little avail. After about half an hour's labour, the lid of the coffin was raised, the body viewed and identified and the grave quickly filled in again.
The jury returned the following verdict: That the deceased,
John Byrne, came to his death on the 5th day of January, 1899, through being struck with a lever, while assisting in
the removal of heavy mortar blocks for the Copperfield battery, and from the evidence adduced no blame is attachable to anyone."